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In this episode we discover how Bus Stop Films came about and what changes it made to the lives of people living with disability by helping them live their best life in the entertainment industry.
Our guests are Tracy Corbin-Matchett, the CEO of Bus Stop Films, a pioneering, not for profit organization that uses filmmaking and the film industry to raise the profile of people living with disabilities on both sides of the camera. And our second guest is Audrey O’Connor, a professional actress, a filmmaker and a spokeswoman for people with disabilities.
Produced by: Black Me Out Productions
Growing Bold and Inclusive Employment
PETE AND TRISTRAM: Welcome to the Grow Bold with Disability podcast brought to you by Feros Care, a podcast dedicated to smashing stereotypes and talking about the things people with disability care about most. To help us live bolder, healthier, better connected lives. I am journalist Pete Timbs and I’m Tristram Peters. I work for Disability Service Directory, Clickability, and am a wheelchair user living with spinal muscular atrophy.
PETE: Today’s episode of Grow Bold with Disability is growing bold and employment and our guests are Tracy Corbin-Matchett, the CEO of Bus Stop Films, a pioneering, not for profit organization that uses filmmaking and the film industry to raise the profile of people living with disabilities on both sides of the camera. And the second guest is Audrey O’Connor, a professional actress, a filmmaker, a spokeswoman for people with disabilities. And she has Down Syndrome.
PETE: In this episode, we’ll discover how bus stop films came about, what changes it made to the lives of people living with disability by helping them live their dreams in the entertainment industry. Tracy and Audrey, welcome to Grow Bold with Disability.
AUDREY: Thank you.
TRISTRAM: Tracy. Let’s start with yourself. You have an amazing portfolio within the film industry. What got you interested in inclusive filmmaking?
TRACEY: Well, I started working in the screen industry around 16 years ago and as a parent of two young people living with disability and living with disability myself, working for the State Screen Agency in New South Wales I met Genevieve Clay-Smith who co-founded Bus Stop films. And I was just so impressed by what they did and how they supported people with disability into work in the screen industry and also make films by and about it. And so, it was a real honour to start working with the organization two years ago. It is sort of my perfect dream job of social justice and creativity in one.
PETE: Love it, and Audrey, what about you? How did your passion for TV and film start?
AUDREY: Well, my experience of that came when I was about 15 and I started my first short film. And that took me around the world. At that stage of my life I was being bullied at school and I had to go to Queensland for three weeks to film and it made me feel extraordinary. That is how I knew I wanted to stay in film.
TRISTRAM: Amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about that short film that you made?
AUDREY: Yes. It is called a Yoke. It’s a 15-minute short film and I play the lead. And, um, yeah, it is actually a lot of fun and pretty much got me out of school which is really cool.
PETE: So, Audrey, whose idea was it to audition for the film? Was it you, Mom and Dad? How did you end up as the lead?
AUDREY: Well, it’s kind of funny actually because one night I was having this dream that I was actually on a film set and I first dreamt about it but didn’t know if it would come true or not. And eventually I can’t remember if I told my mom or my dad but I remember one day after school my mom had the script for a short film, which was that film Yoke. And I was like, yes, I want to be in it because I want my freedom from school, and I was really excited. So, I’m glad I got the lead.
TRISTRAM: As are we, as are we. So, in terms of that, it put you on an amazing journey and you’re now sort of making films with Bus Stop Films. Tracy, how did Bus stop films come about?
TRACEY: Bus Stop Films was started in 2009 by Genevieve Clay Smith and Eleanor Winkler. And it came about from Genevieve winning Trop Fest with an amazing film, Be My Brother, which Genevieve’s made inclusively with young adults with disability, and Gerard O Dwyer who’s the lead actor and he won best actor as well. And from that amazing short film and that Trop Fest winning moment, the genesis of Bus Stop Films came about in terms of developing a film studies program for adults with intellectual disability to offer film school education as well as make amazing films by and about people disability. And in that time, Genevieve has grown the organization to the wonderful organization that we are today, and we now operate our accessible Film Studies program in Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong, and Western Sydney. We even have an outreach program in Mongolia, and we are continuing to make amazing films with awesome actors and talent like Audrey and make films which screen all around the world. Screening in Qantas inflight entertainment, that type of thing on TV that really changed people’s minds and change the lives of those making them.
PETE: Wow. Audrey, how did you find out or hear about Bus Stop Films?
AUDREY: Well, I actually have heard it from one of my friends from my drama group, and so I heard about it from them. And so, I asked my mom if I could find out more. And I sent her the following link and I have been there every week since. And that was 10 years ago.
TRISTRAM: Wow, amazing. And this concept, Tracy is obviously being so well received in the industry. You know you said overseas, Qantas and it’s obviously making massive strides and making a big difference.
TRACEY: Oh absolutely. It’s changing the way that filmmaking is seen and looking at things like authentic casting and real and purposeful and meaningful engagement with people with a disability in all parts of the process, not just bringing them in as an end point but allowing people disability like Audrey to share their stories and develop their stories into full productions. Earlier this year, we shot a short film that Audrey, based on a story that Audrey wrote in high school and we worked with animal logic. So, they are an internationally award acclaimed production company that do animation. So, it’s Peter Rabbit, Lego movie and they came on board. We work with Endemol Shine. We work with big companies, we work little companies, and we work with amazing talent on both sides of the camera and industry professionals that work with our students and on our productions say it’s just a really rewarding opportunity to do the thing they love, which is filmmaking. But do it in a way that can change lives and minds. It is really exciting.
Pete: Tracy, it is also giving these people with disability work as well. Like this podcast is about the employment side of it. Because you have 53% of people living with disability who are labour force age aren’t getting jobs.
TRACEY: It is that. It’s a true and very sad statistic, and I think that is reflecting that people sometimes have low expectations of people with disability on. And perhaps that’s why that furthers their unemployment and underemployment and part of our remit in terms of what we support people with disability to do is to look at those employment pathways in the screen industry and the skills that they learn throughout our program are transformational skills that they can take and apply to other areas of their life, including getting a job and whether that is in the screen industry or in retail or hospitality, it’s around skills building, turning up on time, taking direction, working as part of a team. And we are seeing that change throughout our program as well. And we know, I am sure all of us know, that having a job is more than just about having a job. It is about feeling good about yourself and contributing to society and being part of the society and active in the community the way everyone else is and people with disability shouldn’t be inhibited from having that experience.
TRISTRAM: Absolutely. And one of the great things about films is it completely normalizes disability. Audrey. Why do you think that is important – that films can help normalize disability?
AUDREY: Well, I think it is important to show diversity in film and represent all people. And I remember when I was at school I felt that I was invisible because I was completely ignored and when people with a disability are not included in film and TV we demand to be seen, we need to be seen and heard.
PETE: Yeah, well said. Now also, was there any stage when you were starting out in the film industry Audrey, when people said
“Look, no, sorry, we can’t help you. You know, you have got Down Syndrome. You can’t be part of this industry.” Did they ever tell you that and how did it make you feel?
AUDREY: Well no, I have never been told that I can’t take part as an actress. But there are no scripts for people with Down Syndrome and most other disabilities. We are simply left out of the picture. However, Bus Stop Films has changed that for me and the others and created many opportunities.
TRISTRAM: For sure. And Tracy, what should employers know about working with people with disabilities? What is the message that you’d like to tell other employers?
TRACEY: I say get to know people with disability, give it a go. Work in a bespoke way. There are some great principles around being inclusive in the workplace. But when we approach working with people with a disability, we like to tailor it to the individual situation. Their needs, their likes, their dislike, their skills. And look out for the opportunities in your workplace for jobs that could be done by someone living with a disability.
And it’s not about dumbing down jobs. It is about reframing how you approach employment opportunities and, you know, go to the government websites. Drawbacks says, look around what the supports are there for you as an employer. There could be financial incentives, there could be training. We have just launched a training program this week called
“Inclusion in Action”, which is aimed at the screen industry about supporting production companies, filmmakers around being more confident around working or collaborating with a person with disability. With the primary focus to open employment pathways to people with disability in the screen industry on both sides of camera.
Like Audrey just said, she is an amazing actress and her skills are amazing. But what is missing is those opportunities for people with disability written into stories or on a production. And there is no reason why any workplace, whether it’s a film set or a coffee shop or a shop or an office, couldn’t look around and see what opportunities they have and what roles could be given to a person with disability. Not out of pity but out of skills building into capacity. Aim high, aim high. It is the low expectations that people have around disability. And if we look around the statistics around your bottom line, diversity and inclusion grows your profits. Diversity and inclusion bring innovation, and it also brings a real wealth of people.
Every single person with disability is connected to around 2.6 more people. So if you look at how you market your products, or you market your workplace, you’ve got a greater network of people to market to if you include people with disability in that mix. It’s the biggest subgroup off people in the world, and it’s the only group that any one of us can come into at any point in our lives. We may never change our cultural identity per se, but we may acquire a disability at some time in our lives. Or have a temporary disability. So, it is something that we can all be part of and be connected to at any time in our life. It is a huge thing when you think of the footprint of the disability community, so for employers, give it a go. Say yes. And then work out the details later. Be proactive.
PETE: Well said, Well said, Now Audrey, we spoke to a disabled gentlemen a couple of episodes back on our podcast. And he mentioned that when he was growing up, he wished he had more role models who had disability when he was growing up. Who are some of your role models that you have had growing up?
AUDREY: I was self-taught a little bit because I learned to be a leader from my youth from being a Girl Guide. And I learned my confidence from my family, like my mom and dad and my siblings. I think they helped me how to be brave and strong. And my other role model is Genevieve Clay Smith, she is also a role model for me because I want to be a film maker like her. And I had some other inspiration from the people who support me with my dreams.
TRISTRAM: Amazing. And it is time to probably embarrassed you a little bit Audrey. Tracy, it is fair to say we would call Audrey a role model, wouldn’t we?
TRACEY: Oh, dead set. She is an amazing role model. I want to be like Audrey when I grow up. She is an amazing actress. She is super smart. She is a great dancer too. And she writes amazing films. So, yeah, what is not to love? Yeah, she is a great role model.
PETE: Audrey, you are a role model, we love you. What are some of your dreams for the future? What’s sort of coming up for you in the entertainment industry?
AUDREY: Well I do have a few actually. Of course, I went to continue learning with Bus Stop Films. I also want to continue with my passion for theatre, like my theatre group where I would like to learn more about acting. And I am also I was in the process of creating my own story. It is called the ordinary girl, and I hope that it will come to one day be onstage.
TRISTRAM: Phenomenal. Can you give us a short summary of what the story is about?
AUDREY: Well, the ordinary girl is about my life experience of being bullied at school and some of them are based on some true events, but some things are make believe as well. Ordinary girl, it is kind of like that we should be seen, and we should have a voice. But also, more about inclusion because I went to a mainstream in both schools and so I was around people who were a lot different to me, who did not have a disability. So basically, I want to show how people can sort of accept the concept of who you are as a person.
PETE: Amazing story. Cannot wait for that one. Tracy just finally back on the employment side of things. Do you think there is enough incentives for employers out there to employ people disabilities? Does the government need to be doing a little bit more?
TRACEY: I think in this current climate, yes, because as we all know, we are in a recession and the severe impact from the pandemic on the economy and employment. And in terms of the vulnerability of people, particularly people with intellectual disability, we do not want to see when people are scrambling to find jobs that people with a disability are left behind. So I think it definitely in responding to the current climate, the government needs to be taking a closer look about how employment supports and pathways to employment are opened up or catered to the needs of people with disability. For sure. There are some great resources out there. Job Access is a great place to start to get information, but in terms of responding particularly to the environment that we are living and working in now, the rights and needs of people with a disability in terms of getting a job and keeping a job and being employed as opposed to underemployment or no employment, are really going to be critical for how we move forward and how people with disability are supported through, particularly the global pandemic and how it’s impacting us today.
TRISTRAM: Perfect. So, Tracey and Audrey. As you know our podcast is called Grow Bold with Disability, and we always like to ask our guests what does growing bold mean to you. So, we’ll start with you first Audrey. What does growing bold mean to you?
AUDREY: I think it says everything in the title, but I also think it means being extraordinary and show what we can do. And just show people that just because we look young does not mean we are not our age. And I also feel like that we need to be extraordinary and not ordinary.
TRISTRAM: Perfect. I think we can all strive to be a little bit more extraordinary for sure. And Tracey, what does growing bold mean to you?
TRACEY: Growing bold, well you know it is my birthday in two days so I’m going to grow a bit old and bold this week. For me as I get closer to 50 than I am to 40 after this weekend, I think for me, growing boldly is just about looking out for what you love and doing it with passion and joy. I am very grateful to be the CEO of Bus Stop Films. To me it is a dream job, and I would like to grow bold in doing more great things with Bus Stop Films over the next three years and taking our amazing programs all over the world. I want world domination.
PETE: Don’t hold back you two.
TRACEY: Is that too much to ask? We will not hold back. No.
PETE. Love it. Well, ladies, thank you so much for joining us today here on Grow Bold with Disability brought to you by Feros Care. And listeners can find out much more about Tracy, Bus Stop Films and, of course, Audrey in the links provided in today’s episode show notes. Ladies, thank you so much for joining us today.
TRACEY: Thank you.
AUDREY: Thank you very much.
PETE: This podcast is brought to you by Feros Care, an NDIS partner delivering local area coordination services in Queensland, South Australia, and the Australia Capital Territory. Feros Care is a people care organization committed to helping people leave bolder lives. We call it growing bold and for over 30 years Feros has been making it real for both older Australians and those living with disability. To find out more head to Feroscare.com.au
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The content and views discussed in this podcast series are those of the individuals involved. They are not necessarily condoned by, or, are the views of Feros Care or its employees.